Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preservice Teachers' Interpretations of a Field-Based Reading Block

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preservice Teachers' Interpretations of a Field-Based Reading Block

Article excerpt

Influenced by theories of social constructivism (Tharp & Gillimore, 1988; Vygotsky, 1978) and situated learning (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991), teacher educators have in recent years begun searching for new coherence and integrity in the teacher education curriculum. The endeavor to reform teacher education has resulted in the creation of professional development schools where prospective teachers are provided "a wide array of laboratory settings for observation, hands-on experiences, and exemplary schools for internships and residencies" (Goodlad, 1991, p. 292). This new conception of teacher education acknowledges the complexity of learning to teach and brings preservice, induction, and in-service programs together.

Concomitantly, the renewed interest in the notion of curricular integration (Hughes, 1991; Vars, 1991) has led to the creation of integrated blocks that combine several courses that were traditionally taught separately. Many of these blocks are interdisciplinary, combining courses from curriculum areas such as literacy, math, science, social studies, and technology (e.g., Bondy, Ross, & Webb, in press; Wigle & Dudley, 1993; Wright, Sorrels, & Granby, 1996). Other blocks are intradisciplinary in nature, which means they combine courses that are from the same disciplinary area. For example, in some institutions, courses in reading, language arts, and children's literature are put together in a variety of ways to create what are known as reading or literacy blocks. A case in point is the literacy block configuration described in Cox et al. (1998). Their intradisciplinary block integrated contents from three related courses (i.e., developmental reading, language art, corrective reading) that used to be taught separately and often sequentially.

In the face of recent public outcry about teacher preparation (e.g., National Council on Teacher Quality, 2001), these new approaches to curricular design have generated considerable interest among many teacher education programs around the country. It is believed that such alternative curricula maximize the educational possibilities for those learning to teach and facilitate their concurrent construction of what Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) referred to as three essential and interrelated dimensions of professional knowledge about teaching and learning, namely, knowledge-for-practice (e.g., knowledge imparted by textbooks and course instructors), knowledge-in-practice (e.g., knowledge gained through reflection about and critique of one's own experience in the field), and knowledge-of-practice (e.g., knowledge gained through deliberate inquiry).

In the field of reading/literacy education, in particular, the ideas of integrated curriculum (e.g., Lipson, Valencia, Wixson, & Peters, 1993; Walmsley & Walp, 1990) and field-based teaching (e.g., Hollingsworth, 1988; Worthy & Prater, 1998) have gained much popularity. The advent of such an alternative-reading teacher education curriculum, similar to any other new educational phenomenon, warrants investigation, however. There have been surprisingly few studies that investigated preservice teachers' construction of professional knowledge in integrated blocks of courses. Wright et al. (1996) described a teacher preparation program in which students took all their elementary teaching methods courses in an integrated block during the semester prior to student teaching. They reported that students enrolled in this interdisciplinary block of courses were rated higher than those who were not in comparable teacher preparation programs by their internship cooperative teachers in the following seven competency areas: classroom management, integrated lesson planning, thematic units, professional collaboration, reflective practice, effective communication, and overall preparation. Cox et al. (1998) examined preservice teachers' learning about literacy education within the context of an intradisciplinary literacy block. …

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